Helium Powered Drones

Airpup is an exceptionally small kite balloon (aka an aerostat), which is a quiet, easy to use alternative for drones. Kite balloons can fly for days. They have no active controls, no software, no moving parts — they just point into the wind and follow where towed.

Kite balloons can be used for aerial photography, as a replacement for a radio tower, or for capturing weather data. Airpup is based on early 20th century kite balloons. It is the first new kite balloon design in 25 years. See also: Kite aerial photography.

The Anatomy of Artificial Intelligence

In 1770, Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a chess-playing machine known as the Mechanical Turk. His goal, in part, was to impress Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. This device was capable of playing chess against a human opponent and had spectacular success winning most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for almost nine decades. But the Mechanical Turk was an illusion that allowed a human chess master to hide inside the machine and operate it.

Some 160 years later, Amazon.com branded its micropayment based crowdsourcing platform with the same name. According to Ayhan Aytes, Amazon’s initial motivation to build Mechanical Turk emerged after the failure of its artificial intelligence programs in the task of finding duplicate product pages on its retail website. After a series of futile and expensive attempts, the project engineers turned to humans to work behind computers within a streamlined web-based system.

The spectacle of the machine

Amazon Mechanical Turk digital workshop emulates artificial intelligence systems by checking, assessing and correcting machine learning processes with human brainpower. With Amazon Mechanical Turk, it may seem to users that an application is using advanced artificial intelligence to accomplish tasks. But it is closer to a form of ‘artificial artificial intelligence’, driven by a remote, dispersed and poorly paid clickworker workforce that helps a client achieve their business objectives. As observed by Aytes, “in both cases the performance of the workers who animate the artifice is obscured by the spectacle of the machine.”

This kind of invisible, hidden labor, outsourced or crowdsourced, hidden behind interfaces and camouflaged within algorithmic processes is now commonplace, particularly in the process of tagging and labeling thousands of hours of digital archives for the sake of feeding the neural networks…  As we see repeated throughout the system, contemporary forms of artificial intelligence are not so artificial after all… At every level contemporary technology is deeply rooted in and running on the exploitation of human bodies.

Quoted from Anatomy of an AI System, Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, 2018.

Via: The exploitation, injustice, and waste powering our AI, Katharine Schwab, 2018.

Hardware & Software Info for Solar Powered Website

For those who want to build their own solar powered website, we have released the source code and a manual outlining all hardware and software details.

Technological Sovereignty

We deserve to have other technologies, something better than what we nowadays call Information and Communication Technologies. This book delves into the guiding principles of technological sovereignty and proposes new theoretical and practical descriptions of some initiatives developing free technologies. It deals with its psychological, social, political, ecological and economic costs while it relates experiences to create Technological Sovereignty.

The authors bring us closer to other ways of desiring, designing, producing and maintaining technologies. Experiences and initiatives to develop freedom, autonomy and social justice while creating autonomous mobile telephony systems, simultaneous translation networks, leaks platforms, security tools, sovereign algorithms, ethical servers and appropriate technologies among others.

From the introduction to Technological Sovereignty Vol.2,, which is available in English, French, and Spanish. The first volume is available in French and Spanish only.

Fermentation and Daily Life

There is a moment in the life of fruits and vegetables that has always puzzled and fascinated me. Put out a dish of strawberries, and in days some darker spots will appear. Maybe a thin tendril of mold sprouts out from the strawberry’s body. At this point, you can still eat it, simply by cutting off the moldy bit. But all of a sudden, the strawberry has clearly died. It’s inedible, sour. It has passed over in to the world of bacteria, mold, and minerals—it is no longer a self-regulating organism. It has stopped being an individual, but has become multitudes.

How does this happen? When is an organism living, and when is it dead? Where does death come from, and why does this change of state happen so quickly? Amazingly, we’ve developed some techniques to play with this boundary between life and death, stretch it, and blur it. I’m not talking about cryogenic freezing, blood transfusion, lab-grown meat, or any other modern technology. I’m talking about fermentation, the process of controlled decay of living organisms.

From coffee to ketchup, bread to sausage, wine to cheese, fermented foods are all around us. These types of fermentation tend to happen in far-off factories. Coffee berries are fermented before they’re roasted. To make ketchup, tomatoes are puréed en masse, left to rot, then heated to kill the bacteria. We usually don’t get the chance to see for ourselves the transformation of life—into other forms of life.

But you can. In this essay, I talk about fermentation: what makes it so magical, why people are so afraid of it. I talk about some strategies people use to make fermentation part of their daily life, and why modern life makes it so hard to do so. And finally, I speak to the ethics of fermentation—what we can learn from it and how it can help us think differently. [Read more…]

Historical Storage Cellars in Budapest

The Kőbánya district of Budapest is situated on the eastern margins of the Hungarian capital city. Beneath Kőbánya there is an extensive limestone layer, in which tunnels and passages have been made, some of which appear to date from the 13th century. In the 19th century, the limestone caverns of the Hungarian capital city Budapest were used for the refrigeration of perishable goods in large quantities.

This article analyses the architectural development of these evidently low-tech facilities, while also exploring their significant role in the city’s urbanisation. The technical functions and structure of the system of caverns may be useful as a resource for society in the future when the supply of fossil fuels runs out.

The effectiveness of the caverns as place for refrigeration can be demonstrated through climatic calculations. The cavern system has significant energy capabilities, given that there is a constant air temperature throughout the year.

Read more: Pilsitz, Martin, and Zsuzsanna Nádasi-Antal. “Historical storage cellars in Budapest: The architectural history and functional operation of an industrial building in 19th-century Hungary.” Építés-Építészettudomány (2018): 1-20.